There’s no question: millennials are challenging the traditional values and ideals of older generations. Characterized by activism and immersion in technology, millennials have come to age in a century marked by political, economic and social change. In today’s information age, avenues have opened up to discuss, mobilize, participate and watch online anything and anyone. But what does this mean for democracy?
Like many of my millennial peers, I’ve participated in political demonstrations, have become reliant on my iPhone, sent a multitude of tweets, signed a couple petitions and have openly discussed my feelings on a plethora of topics. I express my views freely, and I happily engage in debate and discussion. In different or similar ways, everyone has taken part in discourses like these – especially millennials. Known as the “me” generation and information-driven entrepreneurs, we pride ourselves on having a bit of knowledge on everything and diffusing our opinions on almost anything. Though of course people have always had opinions on many things, we millennials believe it is inherently our right to address them. We may sometimes end up coming off as entitled, arrogant and/or wrong – but hey, it’s our opinion.
Rarely do we stop and think about a world in which the right to express our opinions and beliefs might not exist. To many young people in the United States, it’s unfathomable.
However, unbeknownst to many, democracy around the world is on the decline. Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Report last year marked the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom: “Democracy is in retreat.” In other parts of the world, and for many young individuals like ourselves, not having these freedoms guaranteed by law is a reality. Being able to speak freely, to practice the religion of our choosing or to mobilize in protests is something we shouldn’t take for granted.
In the United States, five core freedoms are ingrained in the First Amendment: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. So, what do these rights actually mean? What happens if those rights would be taken away? What do millennials think of these freedoms? Do they care? Or do they even know what they are?
In the next couple of blog posts, I will try to answer these questions with the help of my peers and the views of others. As millennials become the next generation of leaders, I believe it is important to understand why these rights we sometimes forget about actually mold us into the technologically advanced and modern generation we see today. Although we millennials may differ in views, political stances or which ice cream flavor is the best, I still believe that we can all agree that we would be worse off if we didn’t even have the freedom to discuss and debate as we please.
DISCLAIMER: McCain Institute for International Leadership is a non-partisan "do-tank" that is part of Arizona State University. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent an opinion of the McCain Institute.